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Virginia Woolf's Narrative Technique In A Room Of One's Own

3382 words - 14 pages

 
"Like most uneducated Englishwomen, I like reading." Can these words really belong to Virginia Woolf, an "uneducated Englishwoman" who knew half a dozen languages, who authored a shelf's length of novels and essays, who possessed one of the most rarified literary minds of the twentieth century? Tucked into the back pages of A Room of One's Own, this comment shimmers with Woolf's typically wry and understated sense of humor. She jests, but she means something very serious at the same time: as a reader, she worries about the state of the writer, and particularly the state of the female writer. She worries so much, in fact, that she fills a hundred some pages musing about how her appetite for "books in the bulk" might be satiated in the future by women writers. Her concerns may be those of a reader, but the solution she proffers comes straight from the ethos of an experienced writer. "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction," Woolf asserts early in her essay. This "one minor point," as she calls it, could have major repercussions for the future of literature. It would certainly, in the least, enrich the life of Virginia Woolf the reader. But before this can happen, Virginia Woolf the writer must demonstrate how a few hundred pounds and some privacy translate into a wealth of new books by women. To do this, she uses a most natural example: A Room of One's Own itself. Before it became a seminal feminist text or the source of countless cultural clichés, this essay was first a piece of writing by a woman of some means and leisure. It is both the result and the purveyor of a set of ideal creative conditions for the female author. Employing an innovative narrative technique, Woolf manifests how these external conditions come to bear on women's prose style.

A Room of One's Own is Virginia Woolf's fictionalized response to a very factual request. "We asked you to speak about women and fiction - what has that got to do with a room of one's own?" Woolf asks, anticipating her audience's bewilderment at the title of her work. It has to do, she explains, with women writers' need for money and personal space. But it can only be properly explained through fiction. "I am going to develop in your presence as fully and freely as I can [my] train of thought...making use of all the liberties and licenses of a novelist," she explains. One can imagine that this statement only further perplexed Woolf's original audience of female undergraduates in 1928. But Woolf is adamant here. She has no desire to rehash remarks about the usual suspects of women's literature. Jane Austen, George Eliot, the Bronte sisters - these women will eventually be mentioned, but Woolf is no historical surveyor. She writes modernist novels; naturally, she will write about women and fiction in that same modernist, novelistic mode. But the fictional form of A Room of One's Own indicates more than Woolf's predilection for...

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